by Karen Bauer'16
After returning to campus from winter break, students immediately began buzzing about the new addition to the library’s decor. The windows on the north side of the library currently display large black and white photographs of Beloit students in different poses. These students weren’t just randomly selected to have their photos taken and displayed in the library, however; there is an interesting story behind these photographs.
Sara DeLong’15 was inspired to create this project after hearing a woman from the TED-sponsored Inside Out Project, speak at a conference in April 2013. The Inside Out Project is a global participatory art project started by well-known photographer and street artist, JR. The project allows individuals to share their untold stories and to transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.
The goal of the Inside Out Project is to confront people with the problems that are occurring in their communities. The Inside Out Project, among many other projects of JR’s, aims to mix art and action. While the Inside Out Project’s images around the world are truly works of art, they also give voice to issues that need to be addressed; LGBT rights in Belarus and Moscow, orphans with HIV/AIDS, and destructive industries, like drilling for oil in the Arctic.
In September, DeLong reached out to the members of Sustained Dialogue, a new student-led initiative on campus. While she is not a member of the group herself, DeLong says “[I] really wanted to be a part of the global conversation on how to use art to address issues in the community.” With the help of Sustained Dialogue, DeLong hoped to form an independent action group as part of the Inside Out Project.
Sustained Dialogue is a diverse group of students that meets weekly to discuss issues on campus regarding gender, race, and stereotypes. The members of the action group chose to display their art in the library, because they wanted to use a public space where social barriers were experienced on a daily basis. The group’s action statement is titled “There are Barriers at Beloit College” because the large photographs embody the personal experiences the members have with social barriers on campus. Through this art project, DeLong and the members of Sustained Dialogue hope to build a campus wide awareness and discussion on social barriers present on campus and begin finding solutions on how to break down these barriers individually and as a community.
These photographs will be on display in the library until Monday, Feb. 10. Following its removal from the library, you can look for this photo installation in other locations around campus throughout the spring semester.